Former Theranos COO Gets 13 Years in Prison

Ramesh 'Sunny' Balwani sentenced on 12 counts of fraud and conspiracy tied to false claims made on behalf of company

Former Theranos CEO Sunny Balwani Found Guilty on All 12 Fraud Charges Against Him

A federal judge sentenced former Theranos Chief Operating Officer Ramesh 'Sunny' Balwani to 13 years in prison Wednesday for defrauding investors and patients of the blood testing startup, a more severe penalty than that given to former CEO Elizabeth Holmes.

Key Takeaways

  • Former Theranos COO Ramesh 'Sunny' Balwani has been sentenced to 13 years in prison.
  • Balwani was convicted on 12 fraud and conspiracy counts for claiming Theranos had developed an advanced blood testing technology.
  • Balwani's former boss and ex-girlfriend, Elizabeth Holmes, received a sentence of more than 11 years for her role in the case.
  • Prosecutors showed Holmes and Balwani knew Theranos' technology didn't work.
  • Balwani and Holmes each sought to shift blame to the other during their separate trials.

Balwani was the longtime boyfriend of Theranos founder and Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Holmes, who was sentenced in the same courthouse last month to more than 11 years in prison on fraud charges stemming from her false claims about the company.

Balwani was convicted on 12 fraud and conspiracy charges related to his work at Theranos. Prosecutors had sought a 15-year prison sentence, while Balwani's attorneys requested probation. Balwani must report for his sentence on March 15. Holmes is to report for her sentence on April 27.

Holmes and Balwani had claimed that Theranos developed blood-testing equipment capable of using blood drawn from a finger pinprick in hundreds of lab analyses; the company had not, in fact, developed such equipment. Theranos did attract significant investments from billionaire business tycoons Larry Ellison and Rupert Murdoch, and recruited the likes of former Secretary of State George Shultz for its board of directors.

Balwani was 40 and Holmes 22 when she moved in with him in 2005, two years after founding Theranos. Holmes named Balwani the company's chief operating officer in 2009 after he loaned the company $13 million. She fired Balwani and ended their relationship in 2016, the year after The Wall Street Journal reported the company was marketing a non-existent technology.

During Holmes' trial on fraud charges, her attorneys claimed Balwani abused Holmes physically and psychologically while micromanaging her work as Theranos CEO. Balwani's lawyers have denied the abuse claims and sought to depict their client as an unwitting victim of a fraud Holmes perpetrated.

Balwani opted not to speak at his sentencing hearing. He has been a man of few words in other contexts as well, according to the transcripts of texts between Balwani and Holmes presented at Holmes' trial. "You are the breeze in the desert for me. My water. And ocean. Meant to be only together tiger," Holmes once texted Balwani. "OK," he replied.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of California. "Theranos Chief Operating Officer Ramesh 'Sunny' Balwani Found Guilty Of Conspiracy, Wire Fraud."

  2. U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of California. "U.S. v. Elizabeth Holmes, et al."

  3. Bustle. "A Timeline of Elizabeth Holmes & Sunny Balwani’s Secret Relationship."

  4. Scott Budman on Twitter. "Text Messages Between Elizabeth Holmes...."

Take the Next Step to Invest
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.